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American Association for Physician Leadership
American Association for Physician Leadership

25 Strategies to Boost Employee Morale

by Laura Hills, DA

February 4, 2022


Morale can be the fuel that drives your healthcare organization forward, or it can be the fuel that feeds the fires of employee discontent, poor performance, illness, and absenteeism.

  1. Lead by example. Of course, it’s not possible for you to be cheery 100% of the time, and no reasonable person will expect that of you. However, stress and negativity are highly contagious, especially if they’re coming from you. Be mindful of your attitude and behavior, especially when you’re headed into a busy day or a challenging project. Exude confidence and calm, and try to smile more. Resist the temptation to complain or badmouth. It’s your job as a healthcare executive not to panic and to model the behavior you want to see from your staff, especially in challenging and tense situations.

  2. Respect and accommodate your staff’s outside-of-work schedules. Morale suffers when employees can’t meet their personal, social, and family obligations. Do whatever you can to accommodate your employees’ schedules. For example, if an employee tells you that she’s taking a class and needs to leave a half hour early on Wednesdays, do your best to work around that schedule so she leaves on time. If you help your employees to maintain a happy life outside of work, they’ll bring a better attitude to your healthcare organization each day.

  3. Reinforce positive behavior. Taking a moment to recognize your employees for a job well done is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to boost morale. That said, it’s important to recognize your employees meaningfully. Recognize your employees when they have improved or gone above and beyond expectations. Tell them that you were genuinely impressed with the good work they did. Seize opportunities to highlight the contributions of your employees in front of their coworkers. That can go a long way toward making them feel valued.

  4. Surprise your employees with random acts of kindness. When new hires join your healthcare organization, ask them to fill out a short questionnaire about their “favorites” (favorite candy, flower, magazine, sports team, restaurant, animal, song, movie, vacation place, color, ice cream flavor, hobby, book, movie star, etc.). Keep this information on file and use it when your staff needs a pick-me-up. For example, when an employee has been working late all week, surprise him with his favorite candy on Friday or play her favorite song. Everyone appreciates surprises, but morale boosters such as these pack more wallop if you remember personal favorites.

  5. Establish short-term goals. Ambitious long-term goals have a big payoff but require sustained effort. Be sure to establish some short-term goals for your staff, too. Build excitement and keep your staff motivated. Small successes will add up to larger ones and keep morale high.

  6. Address low morale head-on. Ask your employees why they’re feeling down and what you can do to improve things. Encourage them to open up to you by safeguarding and honoring confidences.

  7. Organize a rotating skill share. Encourage your employees to share their talents and interests with one another, perhaps at a monthly meeting. This will give your employees opportunities to share their gifts and interests and for them to bond with one another.

  8. Delegate. Show your employees that you trust them and that you’re confident in their knowledge, skills, and abilities by delegating responsibilities to them. The added responsibility can boost their self-esteem and morale.

  9. Feed them. It’s hard to feel chipper when you’re hungry. If you suspect that your employees are getting testy because they’re not eating properly, offer them healthy breakfast, lunch, or snack options that they can enjoy at the office. Healthy food can increase productivity, creativity, and mood. Employees will also be thankful if they don’t have to rush in the morning to make breakfast or leave the office to buy a piece of fruit.

  10. Join together for a cause. Organize a community service project for you and your employees. Work together as a team and give back to your community. Doing so can help uplift your employees and give them a way to develop lasting bonds with their coworkers.

  11. Help employees develop and grow. Create a career track for each employee. Help every member of your team develop a vision of personal success. Create a template for your employees to use to document skills they’ve acquired, skills they want to learn, and goals they want to reach. Then provide employees with attractive opportunities for education and training to help them sharpen their professional skills. Offer tuition reimbursement or hire a trainer to teach employees a new skill. Send your employees to a conference or enroll them in a webinar. Buy books for them to read and share, and discuss them as a group.

  12. Nurture creativity. Go by the philosophy that there are no bad ideas, only undeveloped ones. Provide employees with room and flexibility to try out new ideas. Let them come up with new and better ways to do things and to solve problems.

  13. Solicit suggestions. Place a secured, locked suggestion box in your office. Encourage employees to submit anonymous questions.

  14. Conduct employee satisfaction surveys. Ask questions that will help you pinpoint the reasons for low morale. Then address the issues you uncover.

  15. Establish an employee recognition program. Employees want their bosses and organizations to be aware of and to appreciate their work. Create an employee-of-the-month program or a wall of fame to recognize notable staff contributions. Such programs demonstrate your appreciation.

  16. Get to know them individually. Ask about hobbies and interests. Learn about their spouses and children, community service work, and other passions. Talk about your respective plans for the weekend. Staff members will appreciate your interest, as long as you keep the conversation appropriate and genuine.

  17. Give them something to look forward to. Having something to look forward to relieves stress and boredom and creates healthy anticipation for the future. You might, for example, encourage your employees to bring food to share at work the last Friday of each month. Or hold a drawing for a gourmet dinner once a month. Or plan a quarterly social event outside of work hours for your entire staff. Mix it up and make it fun so your employees will truly look forward to the event.

  18. Incorporate humor. A work atmosphere that is too strait-laced can dim the creative spirit and lower staff morale. Throw in a funny joke or story to enliven your meetings with your employees. Lighten up the atmosphere in your healthcare organization—appropriately, of course.

  19. Focus attention on your healthcare organization’s greater purpose. Everyone wants to feel that his or her work has a higher purpose. Sometimes, though, that purpose gets lost in the day-to-day tasks of a busy healthcare organization. Inspire your employees to see the big picture by highlighting accomplishments and stories that show them the value of what they do. An employee may be more fulfilled by knowing that she has helped a patient or coworker in need than by any other rewards.

  20. Share inspiring materials. Circulate inspiring stories and books. Watch inspiring videos and biography programs together. Then discuss them. A shared positive experience such as this can be very powerful.

  21. Take a break from the way you usually do things. Routines are great, but a too-predictable workplace can become dull. Shake things up occasionally, especially when your staff least expects it.

  22. Encourage a family atmosphere. Plan social events for your staff and their families. Picnics, bowling outings, and family-friendly parties can help your staff get to know one another better and boost morale.

  23. Play games. Offer door prizes at your staff meetings. Hold weekly drawings. Play guessing games. Facilitate icebreakers. Games are fun and can keep the energy in your organization high.

  24. Be a servant leader. When your staff is facing a tough time and morale is sinking, be the ultimate leader and take the bullet for your team. Roll up your sleeves, take on the dirty work, and do whatever you have to do to help get the job done. Show your employees with your behavior, not just your words, that you are there to help and serve them.

  25. Make a substantive, positive, and visible change. Eliminate one annoying problem for your employees. You may not be able to solve every problem. But that one change will demonstrate very clearly that things do change and get better in your healthcare organization.

Excerpted from: The Problem Employee: How to Manage the Employees No One Wants to Manage by Dr. Laura Hills.

Laura Hills, DA

Practice leadership coach, consultant, author, seminar speaker, and President of Blue Pencil Institute, an organization that provides educational programs, learning products, and professionalism coaching to help professionals accelerate their careers, become more effective and productive, and find greater fulfillment and reward in their work;100 Harborview Drive, #801, Baltimore, MD 21230; phone: 667-205-1152; e-mail:; website: ; Twitter: @DrLauraHills.

For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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